The cosmopolitan capital? Only for people like us

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Apparently, London is now a great place to live. International fashion capital, hipster's paradise, the streets are paved with really cool people. I hear that it is "swinging". And Donna Karan has opened a shop, so it must be true.

Equating a few good parties and a couple of quite hip bars with atransformation owes more, I can't help feeling, to at best the hopeful imaginations of some style journalists, at worst to newspapers's political need to announce the feel-good factor, than to anything real. What is harder to work out is the other great thrill: London is so cosmopolitan!

I'm never sure what people mean when they say this. I think they are saying that All Walks of Life are here. This is true. But the thing people seem to like about London is the possibility it presents to only ever deal with people like themselves.

There are so many people here, you can't fail to find enough just like you to dispense with the rest. Swinging London would suggest some kind of glorious melting pot; in fact, it's more like the neatly divided pick'n'mix counter at Woolworths. No matter how obscure your social sub-set, there will always be enough of you here to make up a niche in the market, and a cosmopolitan evening rarely means more than eight white professionals enjoying a rather good Chilean wine from that great little deli round the corner. You work with your mirror images, go out to places designed with you in mind - and to contrive to come across anyone else would be the most elaborate and mannered business ("Tonight it's Tuesday, so I must go and meet my manual worker friends.").

But you still get to tell everyone else in the country what a cosmopolitan kind of guy you are! It is bad enough that Londoners are insufferably smug. It is really unbearable when they've nothing at all to be so smug about.

At the risk of committing a crime of journalism, I'm about to quote what a taxi driver said to me last week. News that violent crime was up had just come on the radio. "Shocking!" the cabbie growled.

But not half as shocking as the model liberal's sermon he then launched into. State education, unemployment, welfare cuts - an absolute scandal. "Is it any wonder kids turn to crime these days?"

What was this? A traitor to his profession? But then we were on to the shooting of an IRA suspect, and more familiar ground. "What I say is, shame it was just one of them they shot." Not quite the model liberal after all, then.

When it emerged the next day that the man had been unarmed, I awaited the "liberal" response. And after a while I realised I'd already heard it, in the back of that cab. The shooting, friends reminded me, was the "lesser of two evils". The police must have been "absolutely terrified".

I don't doubt the police were absolutely terrified - but I thought that's what we paid them for. I'm sure they got a bit edgy when he didn't drop his weapon, as instructed - but as he didn't have one, it would have been quite tricky for him to oblige.

And the choice was not between killing Diarmuid O'Neill and letting him set off bombs; police managed to thwart the other suspects' alleged intentions without having to shoot them.

We don't know why they felt it necessary to shoot this man through a crack in a door in the dark, largely because they won't tell us. And as their first account claimed that he died in a gunfight, confidence in later versions must be less than complete. Yet it would appear that even liberals sleep safer in their beds, knowing that police in body armour, acting on the finest intelligence and training, shoot dead unarmed men.

When Sir Patrick Mayhew was questioned about the killing, he was anxious to say that "it is very important not to jump to any conclusions until the facts are established". It's a pity that he hadn't thought to mention this to the police.

I realise this may suggest some lack of imagination, but I can't for the life of me recall ever much worrying about what to say, should I find myself sitting next to Henry Kissinger. This is clearly quite a blunder - the full extent of which we learn tomorrow night. A 30-second commercial will show an airline passenger idly wondering who will fill the place adjacent to him. Horror of horrors, who should ease himself into the seat in question, but the great Henry Kissinger himself!

Crisis! Like me, the careless passenger has neglected to prepare himself for this potentially disastrous social situation. Had he only, we realise, remembered to read The Economist, they could have had a splendid chat. Alas, he had not.

"Kissinger," the ad agency chairman explains, "was chosen for his daunting intelligence. If you found yourself sitting next to him, you might wish you were better prepared for the conversation."

Or possibly not. It should not be forgotten that we are talking about the gentleman who advised, among others, Presidents Nixon and Reagan. I made a mental note never to embark on air travel again without my copy of Smash Hits, lest I ever have to ward off this man's thoroughly unwelcome opinions.

Half a million pounds does seem like quite a lot of money for Fergie to come up with these days. This is the sum a court says she must find if she's to pursue her bid to bar publication of Fergie: Her Secret Life. The book is said to make "startling revelations" about her relationship with John Bryan. Fergie is quite keen to see to it that it doesn't.

You would have thought a book about Fergie's "secret life" would be a pretty thin affair by now. But in the scary event that there really are startling revelations left to be made, I'd be happy to pitch in to a quick national whip-round to spare us from any more of them.

Lucy Ellmann is on holiday

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